The shortlisted books on a shelf

The shortlist for the world’s largest and most prestigious literary prize for young writers – the Swansea University Dylan Thomas Prize – has been revealed, featuring six extraordinary, emerging voices whose writing plays with formal inventiveness to explore the timeless themes of grief, identity, and family.

Comprising of four novels, one short story collection and one poetry collection – with five titles belonging to independent publishers – this year’s international shortlist is:

  • A Spell of Good Things by Ayòbámi Adébáyò (Canongate Books) – novel (Nigeria)
  • Small Worlds by Caleb Azumah Nelson (Viking, Penguin Random House UK) – novel (UK/Ghana)
  • The Glutton by A. K. Blakemore (Granta) – novel (England, UK)
  • Bright Fear by Mary Jean Chan (Faber & Faber) – poetry collection (Hong Kong)
  • Local Fires by Joshua Jones (Parthian Books) – short story collection (Wales, UK)
  • Biography of X by Catherine Lacey (Granta) – novel (US)

Worth £20,000, this global accolade recognises exceptional literary talent aged 39 or under, celebrating the international world of fiction in all its forms including poetry, novels, short stories and drama. The prize is named after the Swansea-born writer Dylan Thomas and celebrates his 39 years of creativity and productivity. The prize invokes his memory to support the writers of today, nurture the talents of tomorrow, and celebrate international literary excellence.

Namita Gokhale, Chair of Judges, said:“The Swansea University Dylan Thomas Prize has an important role to play in recognising, supporting and nurturing young writers across a rich diversity of locations and genres. The 2024 shortlist has authors from the United States, United Kingdom, Hong Kong, Nigeria and Ghana, and it has been a truly rewarding adventure to immersively read through this creative spectrum of voices.”

The only debut on this year’s shortlist is the astonishing new Welsh talent Joshua Jones, who is in the running for his highly acclaimed short story collection Local Fires – a stunning series of multifaceted stories inspired by real people and real events that took place in his hometown of Llanelli, south Wales.

The sole poet in contention this year is Mary Jean Chan – who was previously shortlisted for the Prize with their debut Fleche in 2020 – and is now recognised for the collection Bright Fear, which fearlessly explores themes of identity, multilingualism and postcolonial legacy.

Three of the four novelists have also gained their second nomination for the Swansea University Dylan Thomas Prize: British-Ghanaian author Caleb Azumah Nelson is in contention for his second novel, Small Worlds, in which he travels from South London to Ghana and back again over the course of three summers to tell an intimate father-son story exploring the worlds we build for ourselves; Nigerian novelist Ayòbámi Adébáyò is shortlisted for her dazzling story of modern Nigeria, A Spell of Good Things, and two families caught in the riptides of wealth, power, romantic obsession and political corruption; and US author Catherine Lacey is celebrated for the genre-bending Biography of X, a roaring epic and ambitious novel chronicling the life, times and secrets of a notorious artist.

Completing the shortlist is British novelist A.K. Blakemore, recognised for her darkly exuberant novel The Glutton, which – set to the backdrop of Revolutionary France – is based on the true story of a peasant turned freakshow attraction.

The 2024 shortlist was selected by a judging panel chaired by writer and co-director of the Jaipur Literature Festival, Namita Gokhale, alongside author and lecturer in Creative Writing at Swansea University, Jon Gower, winner of the Rooney Prize for Irish Literature in 2022 and Assistant Professor at Trinity College Dublin, Seán Hewitt, former BBC Gulf Correspondent and author of Telling Tales: An Oral History of Dubai, Julia Wheeler, and interdisciplinary artist and author of Keeping the House, Tice Cin.

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